glacier bay year faq

Who is eligible for the Glacier Bay Year?

The program is open to young people ages 18 to 24. All students must be legally allowed to live in the United States for the full duration of the program. This means that DACA recipients are eligible, as are international students who already have visas running through mid-November.  Depending on visa type, international students may or may not be able to receive college credit. Unfortunately, Tidelines cannot currently sponsor student visas.

Tidelines Institute does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national and/or ethnic origin, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression in the administration of any of its educational programs, admissions policies, financial aid, and other related policies and programs, as well as volunteer and employment-related policies and activities.

It’s after March 1st. Can I still apply?

Please email the Applications Committee at to inquire. If there are spots available, you are welcome to submit an application.

Can I arrive late or leave early?

In order to preserve the integrity of the cohort, students are also not permitted to arrive after the arrival date of June 14th, 2023 nor to leave before the departure date of November 11th, 2023.

What does it cost to attend? Is financial aid available?

Please visit our Fees & Financial Aid page to learn more about the cost of attendance. Financial aid is absolutely available—in fact, in the past, over 80% of our students have received financial aid. We are deeply invested in making sure that students of all financial backgrounds participate in the Glacier Bay Year. To this end, we are committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need, giving financial aid grants instead of loans, and to making sure that the financial aid process is not a barrier to entry for any student.

Can I pay for the program with my 529 college savings plan?

Yes! Please email for further information.

Do I need to have outdoor experience? What kinds of trips & activities will students do outside?

Although no prior wilderness or camping experience is expected of students , a readiness and willingness to learn outdoors skills is! Students can expect to spend time hiking, working outside, or paddling on a daily basis. Many everyday activities that normally take place indoors are outside at Tidelines. You will filet fish and wash veggies in our outdoor kitchen, do carpentry in all weather conditions, and spend much of your free time exploring your surroundings.

Tidelines staff and faculty will teach you everything you need to know for backcountry trips: packing, cooking with a camp stove, navigating with a map and compass, bear safety, how to set up a tent, how to stay warm in the rain and cold, and so on. We recognize that there are barriers to accessibility to the outdoors that often fall along race, gender, and class lines and are committed to making sure that every student feels confident, safe, and comfortable outside. But we also want students to challenge themselves, develop a deeper relationship with the natural world, and build confidence. This means that students will take a combination of trips led by staff and on their own.

The Alaskan woods have very few marked paths. When we travel by foot, students can expect rough terrain following game trails, walking along rocky shorelines, or bushwhacking entirely. It is generally much easier to travel by sea than by land, and most of our multi-day trips will be in kayaks.

All students will complete a full kayaking orientation, bear safety training, tide orientation, and wilderness medicine training. We always have at least two Wilderness First Responder certified staff members on campus.

What is Tidelines doing to minimize risks associated with Covid-19?

Tidelines has followed the Covid-19 pandemic closely since the very beginning, and has employed conservative measures throughout to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and the Icy Strait community. Up-to-date Covid-19 vaccinations are required for all students and staff, and depending on conditions, students may be asked to self-isolate either before or after traveling to Alaska. Our current policy is available here, and it is updated regularly to respond to changing circumstances. Please email with any questions.

Where will students be housed?

At the Inian Island Campus, students live in a 2-story bunkhouse with a large living room, shower, mudroom downstairs, and bunks upstairs. A kitchen and washing machine is available in the main house, and in the summer many students use the dock shower. The bunkhouse has enough electricity to charge your phone and run a hot water kettle. Internet access is limited to the main house. During the colder months, the bunkhouse may be without running water but the main house will have running water all year round. Depending on how much hydroelectric power we are generating, campus might not have hot water.

In Gustavus, students will live in a yurt on the Good River Campus. The yurt has no running water, power, or wifi. It mainly serves as sleeping space, and students will spend most of their time in other areas of campus. Kitchen, showers, and washer and dryer are available at the main house, as well as internet access and a living room.

Both campuses are heated predominantly by wood stoves, which students are expected to stoke, and require students to use composting outhouses. Wifi and power may be inconsistent on both campuses, and students should expect to have extremely limited privacy and personal space for belongings.

What is the workload like?

Prepare to be busy. On your average weekday you are likely to spend 4 hours doing labor, 2-3 in class, and 1-2 on self-governance. And that’s not counting homework, independent projects, down time, meals, and sleep. The Glacier Bay Year will be fun, but it is also intense, challenging, transformative. You will be stressed sometimes. You may wonder how you’re going to get everything done. But you won’t be alone. And you definitely won’t be bored.

What is the food like?

At Tidelines we eat only home-cooking (including our own jams, breads, yogurt, produce, and foraged food). We believe strongly that everyone should think about where their food comes from, how to eat in a sustainable manner and how to express gratitude to the land. At both campuses, Glacier Bay Year students will take most meals in the Main House, where breakfast and dinner are served daily. Students will also be able to pack a bag lunch each morning, which students can eat wherever they prefer. Limited kitchen facilities in student accommodations may also be used to prepare snacks. Student cooks will be largely responsible for preparing meals as one rotation of the labor pillar, and will receive supervision and training to be able to perform that responsibility.

What is internet access like? How will I be able to communicate with my loved ones?

Tidelines cultivates a tech-minimal environment, and we specifically encourage students to think critically about their engagement with technology during the program. Limited wifi will be available to students in the Main House of each campus; student accommodations will not have internet access.

At the Inian Islands campus, the wifi may or may not work for video and audio calls, depending on how many people are using it at once and weather conditions. There is enough cell service to make phone calls most of the time. Mail arrives at the nearby town of Elfin Cove every couple of weeks.

In Gustavus, there is also limited wifi and cell service on campus. However, the center of town has very good cell service and there is a landline in the main house. The post office is a short bike ride away.

Do I need any prior experience?

Some students will arrive at the Glacier Bay Year with more relevant experience in academics, labor, or self-governance than others. Some students may have majors that provide them with a better foundation for the coursework; others may already know how to weld, cook, or filet a fish; others may already have experience running meetings and organizing political bodies. If you are applying with a strong background in one or more of these areas, you should be aware that you will likely find yourself in an informal mentorship position vis-a-vis your fellow students. It is up to you to take advantage of that role, or to consciously step back to let others give it a try. Participants range in age from roughly from 18 to 24, so there is a range in terms of experience; you should not expect to come here to find that everyone is on equal footing in all areas. That said, since some students will be strong in certain areas and weaker in others, there is great opportunity for reciprocal knowledge-sharing.

How physically demanding is the program? What medical resources are available?

Work at Tidelines Institute can be physically demanding, involving both strenuous labor and long hours of study. Over the course of the year, students will be asked to chop firewood, paddle several miles in a day, and traverse steep and pathless terrain. And, as we’re located in a rainforest, you can expect to get rained on while doing any or all of that. While we are committed to working with students with physical limitations, we also ask that prospective students are realistic in thinking about what will be required of them. We encourage all students to build strength and cardiovascular fitness by exercising 30 minutes each day in the weeks leading up to the program. All applicants must carry their own health insurance policies. Any applicant with questions is encouraged to contact us to talk with a staff member or former student.

Applicants with known health problems, including allergies and asthma, are encouraged to talk to their physicians and our staff about options for this summer. Students with severe food or environmental allergies (including to bee stings) are asked to contact us and to bring a supply of epi-pens.

Local medical resources are minimal at best. The town of Gustavus has a small clinic where prescriptions can be filled and check-ups performed. Anything more serious than a mild ailment requires a trip to Juneau or Sitka. Our Inian Islands campus, on the other hand, is a remote field station with no on-site physician. Many staff members are certified Wilderness First Responders, and we have arranged for a consulting nurse practitioner in Gustavus willing to have confidential skype consultations with students for minor medical issues. More severe medical issues may warrant a student’s overnight trip to the clinic in Gustavus or the hospital in Juneau or Sitka. In an emergency, students will be Medevaced by boat, helicopter, or float plane to Juneau. All students will receive medevac insurance, which is covered by your course fees. Students are required to bring at least a two month supply of all prescription medications with them. New prescriptions will be handled through the Gustavus clinic as needed.

What can I expect in terms of mental health?

While many find Tidelines’ warm community environment beneficial for their overall wellbeing, the Glacier Bay Year can be a high-stress environment, even for students with no history of mental illness. We highly recommend that prospective students with mental health challenges have a stable and effective treatment plan in place well in advance of arriving this summer. We will help students find private space to talk on the phone to their counselors or therapists, and we can connect students to therapists in Juneau willing to provide consultations over the phone. No formal mental health services are available on-site, and mental health emergencies will be treated—like physical health emergencies—as cause for rapid evacuation to professional care.

What is the drug and alcohol policy for students?

Student life at Tidelines is strictly drug, tobacco, and alcohol free. This applies to all students regardless of age. Drugs include all illegal drugs, all prescription drugs taken recreationally and/or without a prescription, marijuana and its derivatives, all forms of tobacco, and e-cigarettes.

Drugs and alcohol are prohibited for a few reasons. First of all, there are safety risks involved with being inebriated in a wild, remote place, with access to both power tools and many natural dangers. Second, while not universally true, many students at traditional colleges use drugs and alcohol in escapist or self-medicating ways. We would like students to be fully present for their time here, and to socialize in ways, while they may be slower than drunk bonding, are ultimately less superficial and more meaningful. We would also like students to take time away and apart from their usual habits—in terms of drugs and alcohol, but also in all aspects of their lives —because a break from routine can make you more intentional about the way you live.

What is the local community like?

The Glacier Bay Year takes place at twin campuses, one in the coastal town of Gustavus, AK and one at a remote homestead/field school on the Inian Islands. The community of Gustavus is tiny, with a year-round population of just 450. The town is the gateway community to Glacier Bay National Park, and many individuals work either for the park itself or for tourism businesses that operate in and around it. Fishing—both commercial and sport—is the town’s other major industry. Though small, the town has a vibrant social and cultural life, and is home to many artists, musicians, and scientists.

At the Inian Islands, we will be a community unto ourselves. This remote homestead has a long history as an important community meeting place: first as a fish camp for the Tlingit people, then as a homestead in the early twentieth century, then as a fishing commune in sixties and seventies, and most recently as a B&B. Locals to this region may occasionally pass through the property.
At both campuses we gratefully dwell on the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tlingit, the indigenous residents of this place. Studying Tlingit history, cultural, and traditional ecological knowledge will form a core component of our coursework, and students will take classes with Tlingit culture-bearers.

Can I have visitors during the program?

Whether or not students may have visitors is contingent on the state of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are optimistic that students may be able to have visitors during the 2023 Glacier Bay Year. If so, students may only have visitors while at the Good River Campus in Gustavus, not while at the Inian Islands. Tidelines Institute is not responsible for housing or feeding guests. Students are expected to to fulfill all of their normal program and community obligations even if they have guests. Both students and visitors are required to comply with all institutional, state, local, and federal Covid-19 regulations.

Can I go home or travel elsewhere during the program?

Apart from travel that is part of the program —i.e., travel to the Inian Islands or backcountry trips—student travel is permissible only for medical emergencies. Students who travel outside our program-designated areas for any other reason may forfeit their place in the program, may be asked not to return from their travels, and will not be eligible for a tuition refund.

Can I take online coursework through another college or university while participating in the Glacier Bay Year?

Students may not take outside coursework while enrolled. Tidelines is an immersive living-learning program, and students will be fully occupied each day with work and study. Students will have neither the time for additional studies nor sufficiently reliable internet access to succeed in online courses.

What does a typical day look like?

7:00: The kitchen team is making breakfast, while garden team lets the chickens out, opens the greenhouses, and waters the garden.
8:00: Breakfast! Staff and students eat together, then the dish crew gets going before class.
9:30-11:30: Class time.
12:00: Lunch! A couple of students go on a quick midday walk, before they head off to labor.
1:00-4:00: Construction team works on a new bike shed while garden team harvests produce for the evening meal.
4:00-6:00: Kitchen team makes dinner, and it’s free time for everyone else.
6:00: Dinner
After dinner: Students and staff play card games, do homework and committee work, sing together, go on a stroll to the beach as the sun sets, or just hang out.

How do I apply?

Our online application is available here! The application deadline is March 1st, 2023.

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